Mayor: Technology helping get 'serial trigger pullers' off streets

Mayor, sheriff & state attorney give initial report from CGIC

By Erik Avanier - Reporter, Frank Powers - Assignment manager, Lauren Verno - Consumer investigative reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Editor's note: An initial version of this story inaccurately stated that Cure Violence, a crime intervention program, is working with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office to generate arrests. The story has since been corrected. No one with Cure Violence works with law enforcement agencies.

It has been a violent year in Jacksonville, and the city's mayor, the sheriff and the state attorney say they're working hard to bring the crime rate down.

During a news conference Wednesday, officials showed the mugshots of a dozen suspects who were caught with the assistance of new programs rolled out in 2019, including the NIBIN System or the Real Time Crime Center.

The suspects were charged in 46 shootings using one of the systems, and investigators said a total of 70 guns have been recovered.

According to the Sheriff's Office transparency website, there have been 93 Jacksonville murders in 2019. The page shows there have been 32 arrests. Four others have been cleared by other means.

News4Jax records, which are based on the transparency site, show there have been 92 reported murders in 2019, one less than the Sheriff's Office reports. That's because the Sheriff's Office includes Iyana Sawyer's death in its 2019 count. She disappeared in December 2018 and police say she was shot to death, though her body has not been found.

Based on the violence, the mayor, state attorney and sheriff agree Jacksonville has an uphill battle when it comes to fighting crime.

"We didn't get here overnight, and we're not going to solve this overnight," said Sheriff Mike Williams. "What you have to look at is, do we have proactive strategies in place that are really evidence-based, and are we having positive outcomes? The answer is yes."

Sheriff Williams also spoke about Shot Spotter technology, which alerts officers to gunfire.

Mayor Lenny Curry said the technology in use at the Crime Gun Intelligence Center (CGIC) is helping get "serial trigger pullers and violent criminals off the streets." Curry also praised a program that was introduced earlier this year.

The mayor also highlighted the Cure Violence program, which uses former convicts to reach out to those at risk for being involved in violent crimes.

"So far this year, Cure Violence has had a positive impact on our target areas," Curry said.

State Attorney Melissa Nelson said the CGIC is a national model, and she said it's working.

"This is a long game," Nelson said. "We are in it for the long fight."

But not everyone thinks these initiatives are as making a difference when it comes to preventing and solving violent crime.

"I think crime in Jacksonville remains the same or is going up," said Willie Owens, a Jacksonville resident. "What I think the sheriff needs to do is put some boots on the ground, so they can stop some of this crime going on."

Curtis Denson, a Jacksonville resident, told News4Jax he believes the Shot Spotter system does little to help officers catch gunmen.

"By the time Shot Spotter notifies everybody on their side, they're gone," Denson said.

Back in February, 27-year-old Andre Brazil was shot to death on his son's 5th birthday. It happened in the Moncrief area. Officers were alerted by Shot Spotter.

Brazil's mother, Beverly, said the case is still unsolved.

"The Shot Spotter was there, so what did the Shot Spotter do?" she said. "It didn't help my son."

Beverly Brazil says forcing officers to conduct foot patrols is good, but she also believes the city should invest in more programs that encourage young people to stay on the straight and narrow.

"Implement better things for our youth today than just after school activities," she said.

Brazil also believes parents have to do a better job of teaching young people how to respect life, so they don't think it's acceptable to take it.

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